“Oh the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all.” Dr Seuss
The British and Irish Lions Series rotationally shared between the three southern hemisphere rugby nations is arguably bigger than a World Cup, essentially three World Cup cycles in exchange for one Lions tour.
Recently Springbok flank Pieter-Steph Du Toit agreed as much when asked that very question of which held more weight for him personally.
Some may argue Du Toit would obviously say that as he already has a Rugby World Cup winners medal locked away in his cabinet, regardless he’ll be at the next World Cup but he will only play the Lions once.
Upon reflection, it is fairly obvious to see why though, as a player you may get at least two opportunities to participate at a World Cup during your playing career.
Whereas a Lions Series is fundamentally more down to timing and what year you are born in to be eligible to partake for your country’s respective timeline of hosting the Lions, it is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.
It is finally South Africa’s turn to take on the very best of the home nations later this year, a Lions series is also unique and historic from any other tournament due to the finality of the result.
What I mean by this is the result of that series will live with the players and coaches forever and to an extent – the fans, for players and staff though, there is no next time.
There is no next World Cup cycle to prepare for, or striving toward another opportunity in a few years’ time to ‘rectify’ the result, for us in the southern hemisphere you get one chance at immortality because they’ll only be back in 12 years’ time.
The advent of Covid 19 has turned the world upside down and inside out, the ‘new normal’ is here to stay and the sporting world has felt the brunt of it like so many other sectors of our society.
Obviously, in today’s climate, there are far more pressing matters that should be at the forefront of our concern and addressed than a Lions tour, however sport has and always will have the ability to bring people together from all walks of life under a common understanding.
Thus, it is important in the context of the world we now live in that our sporting traditions are able to adapt and transform to the rapidly changing times, just as we as a society have had to adapt.
The uproar (excuse the pun) of the Lions series being played outside of South Africa’s shores has been met with derision and a pig-headed stubbornness in some quarters, as some critics feel it is a breaking of the longstanding traditions of a Lions tour (the only traditional tour left in rugby).
Technically, the critics are correct regarding the traditional undertakings of the tour and how they can’t be met. However as we know all too bluntly, we are not living in what we now reflect on as halcyon days from the world we once knew.
During these unprecedented times surely we need to be far more flexible and understanding in our approach, an exception to the rule can be made under these distressing times.
I see nothing wrong in the Springboks having to play the Lions at four of the home union’s stadiums in the United Kingdom as is being currently touted by the Lions board.
It’s a once-off if it goes ahead, at least we as fans would be able to watch the series, Test match players will get their chance at immortality, we saw in Super Rugby when the Sharks played the Crusaders in 2011 at Twickenham, and what an occasion that proved to be.
Yes, this current series goes against the traditional tour, yes provincial/club players will miss out on midweek games, yes it won’t bring the immense revenue usually associated with a Lions tour, for once tradition needs to take a back seat for the benefit of the game.
But we all know the quality that both of these teams will bring to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, especially after the World Cup final in 2019, and to be victorious in such incredible circumstances would live forever in the annals and folklore of the Springboks and Lions tours.
As Dr Seuss so famously says ‘Oh the places you’ll go” and whether it be in the United Kingdom, Australia, or the moon, we as fans and I have no doubt the respective teams just want to see the series played.
We’ve waited long enough.